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Growing and Caring for a String of Pearls Plant – An Essential Guide

string of pearls plant

The string of pearls plant, also known as Senecio rowleyanus, is a unique and striking succulent. Its trailing stems are covered with pea-shaped, spherical leaves that look like little green beads, earning it the moniker “string of pearls”.

This succulent makes an excellent houseplant as a striking addition to any indoor garden, hanging basket, or as part of a succulent display. It is wildly popular thanks to its sculptural shape and texture.

Though they demand a bit more care and attention than some succulents, string of pearl plants are not difficult to grow as long as you follow some basic guidelines. With the right conditions and care, these plants can grow lush and full and will cascade beautifully over the sides of pots and planters.

Here is everything you need to know about successfully growing and caring for string of pearls.

An Introduction to the String of Pearls Plant

Native to the arid regions of Southwest Africa, the String of Pearls has evolved remarkable adaptations to survive in challenging environments. Its spherical leaves are not just an aesthetic marvel; they are a masterclass in efficiency, designed to minimize water loss while maximizing water storage.

This ingenious survival strategy allows the plant to thrive in dry conditions, making it an ideal specimen for those looking to add a touch of nature’s resilience and beauty to their indoor spaces.

The allure of the String of Pearls extends beyond its unusual foliage. It blooms with small, white flowers that resemble cinnamon and carry a subtle, sweet fragrance, adding another layer of interest to this already captivating plant.

Despite its exotic appearance, the String of Pearls is surprisingly straightforward to care for, making it accessible to gardeners of all levels.

string of pearls plant in a white planter

String of Pearl Benefits

With its cascading tendrils of bead-like leaves, the String of Pearls adds a distinctive and striking visual element to any space, complementing modern and traditional decor alike. Its trailing nature makes it ideal for hanging baskets, high shelves or as a spillover plant.

Adapted to arid environments, the String of Pearls is highly drought-tolerant, storing water in its spherical leaves. This makes it an ideal plant for those who may forget to water regularly or for places prone to dry conditions.

Apart from occasional watering and ensuring it receives adequate light, the String of Pearls requires minimal maintenance, making it suitable for busy individuals or those new to gardening.

Selecting a String of Pearls Plant

Look for plump, green pearls. They should be firm to the touch, indicating adequate hydration. Shriveled or flat pearls suggest the plant may be dehydrated or in poor health.

The plant should have a vibrant, deep green color. Yellowing or brown pearls can be a sign of overwatering, underwatering, or even sunburn.

Also, consider the length and fullness of the strands. Longer strands are attractive but check that the plant is not just long but also has pearls close together, indicating healthy growth.

How to Grow a String of Pearls Plant

a string of pearls plant on a shelf

Light Requirements

String of pearls need plenty of bright, indirect light to really thrive. They prefer being placed near a sunny window where they will receive at least 4-6 hours of very bright light per day. Some direct morning sun is tolerable, but hot afternoon sun can scorch the leaves.

An east or west-facing window is ideal, though they can do well in a south-facing window if shielded from the harshest afternoon sun. If natural light is insufficient, you can supplement with grow lights positioned 8-12 inches above the plant and left on for 12-14 hours per day.

Soil Needs

Well-draining soil is critical for string of pearls. They prefer a light, gritty potting mix made specifically for cacti and succulents.

A good starting mix contains equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, perlite or pumice, and a small amount of organic material like peat or compost in a 2:1 ratio. You can also purchase premixed cactus and succulent soil blends.

The growing medium needs to drain quickly to prevent soggy roots but still retain some moisture.

Watering Habits

String of pearls should be watered only when the soil has had a chance to dry out between waterings. The watering frequency can vary based on factors like sunlight, temperature, humidity, soil composition, and pot size.

In general, allow the potting mix to dry down completely before giving the plant a good, thorough watering. These plants prefer a “soak and dry” method, which means allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings.

Take care not to leave the plant sitting in wet soil for extended periods. The leaves will start to wrinkle and pucker when they need more moisture.

During the winter months when growth slows, the plants require less frequent watering than in spring and summer. Cut back to watering every 2-3 weeks if your plant is getting colder indoor temperatures and low light.

Reduce watering frequency if you notice rotting or discolored leaves and stems. Established plants can tolerate some drought, but extremely dry soil can cause leaves to drop.

Temperature & Humidity

String of pearls thrives in average room temperatures between 70-80°F. Cooler temperatures around 50-65°F can be tolerated during the fall and winter months.

Keep your plant away from drafts, air conditioning vents, and windows that might expose it to cold temperatures in the winter. Humidity is typically not an issue for these drought-tolerant plants, but they should not be placed in overly humid environments, such as bathrooms, as this can encourage fungal issues.

Fertilization

While not heavy feeders, a String of Pearls can benefit from occasional fertilization. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength, once a month during the growing season.

Avoid fertilizing in the dormant season, as the plant is not actively growing and can be harmed by excess nutrients.

String of Pearls Care

string of pearls in a hanging planter

Potting & Repotting

String of pearls prefers to be slightly root-bound and does not require frequent repotting into larger containers. Use a pot with drainage holes just a few inches wider than the root ball, planting succulents together helps balance soil moisture.

Carefully remove some old soil before moving plants to prevent bringing pests or diseases into fresh soil. Repot every 2-3 years in early spring, using a fresh cactus/succulent soil blend. Handle plants gently when repotting to avoid damaging brittle roots and stems.

Adding a hanging planter can showcase trailing succulents beautifully. Insert some sphagnum moss atop the soil to help retain a tiny bit more moisture without compromising drainage.

Decorative toppers like sand, pebbles or driftwood can also be used just take care that they do not block light or airflow to the plant.

Pruning

Pruning is not only beneficial for maintaining the shape and size of your String of Pearls plant but also encourages fuller, more vigorous growth. Use clean, sharp scissors to remove any dead or dying trails and to shape the plant as desired.

Pruning is best done in the spring or early summer, just before the plant enters its active growth phase.

String of Pearls Propagation

string of pearls in a vintage vase

Propagating string of pearls is a simple and rewarding process. It can be easily done through stem cuttings.

Cut a healthy stem of about 4-6 inches long, allow it to callous for a day or two to prevent rotting, and then place it in well-draining soil. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and in a few weeks, the cutting should root and begin to grow.

This is an excellent way to expand your collection or share with friends.

Common Problems & Troubleshooting

If cared for properly, string of pearls show few serious pest or disease issues. Here are some potential problems and how to resolve them:

  • Overwatering: Causes leaves to turn mushy/translucent, stems to drop. Reduce watering frequency, repot if needed to refresh soil. Discard severely damaged plants.
  • Underwatering: Shriveling and wrinkled leaves indicate a need for more regular watering. Soak dry soil completely when watering.
  • Insufficient light: Can cause sparse or lackluster growth. Place plant closer to a sunny window and rotate periodically for even sun exposure. Use grow lights to supplement.
  • Leggy growth: This means the plant needs more light. Prune long strands back to the desired size and move to a brighter location.
  • Tip browning: Dry air or inconsistent watering may cause buds and tips to brown. Increase humidity, and water more frequently in small amounts.

Insects like mealybugs or spider mites can sometimes occur though are rare indoors. Wipe leaves with diluted neem oil or insecticidal soap if pests are spotted and remove severely infested areas.

With the right location, soil, watering routine, and occasional pruning your string of pearls will flourish beautifully. This unique succulent can be grown easily indoors with some simple care and makes an excellent low-maintenance hanging plant.

Follow these essential string of pearls growing tips and enjoy watching your beads cascade attractively over pots and planters.

string of pearls in a terracotta pot

Can I grow a String of Pearls outdoors?

Yes, in appropriate climates (USDA zones 9-12). They need protection from direct afternoon sun and heavy rain. In cooler regions, they’re best kept indoors or moved outside only during warmer months.

Is the String of Pearls plant toxic?

Yes, the String of Pearls plant is toxic to pets and humans if ingested, causing symptoms like nausea and vomiting. Keep it out of reach of children and pets.

Why is my String of Pearls plant not flowering?

Flowering can be influenced by several factors, including light levels, age of the plant, and season. Ensure it’s getting enough but not too much light, and remember that younger plants may not flower until they’re more mature.

My String of Pearls is getting too long. Can I trim it?

Yes, you can trim your String of Pearls to maintain its shape and size. Use clean, sharp scissors to cut back the stems, and consider propagating the cuttings.

Why are the pearls falling off my plant?

Pearls may fall off due to sudden changes in environment (light, temperature, watering), physical damage, or if the plant is either over or underwatered. Check the care conditions and adjust as needed.

caring for a string of pearls plant Pinterest pin

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